Perpetual Groove’s Amberland
May 27-29, 2011
Every year, on Memorial Day Weekend, the boys from Perpetual Groove throw a down home party.Â The event, Amberland, has been labeled as a “State of Mind,” and that’s just what it is. Each year, hundreds of fans flock to the foothills of the Appalachian mountains nestled outside of Lafayette, GA, for a meeting of the minds with a Perpetual Groove driven soundtrack.
Friday afternoon cars and RV’s from all over start rolling in and setting up for the weekend. After checking in at the gate for wristbands and schedules, “checking out” happens shortly thereafter. Amberland is not a festival; there is no walking back and forth from stage to stage. It is a time to relax and partake in some of the sweetest jams that the celebrated weekend has to offer.
Although many have made the trek an annual tradition, one never quite knows what to expect. At Amberland, anything goes – from late night jams to sit-ins and even a virgin pig toss (which this year unfortunately did not take place).
Aside from no pig toss, this year had a little different make up to it than years past with the addition of a couple of other bands making their way on to the jam scene with vengeance.Â This year saw the addition of Amby awards, YOGA, and new (to Amberland) bands: Noise Org, The Mantras, Under the Porch, Former Champions, Zoogma.
Off the bat, something was different this year. In years past, the Friday night events have been held under a tent on a stripped down make-shift stage, but this year all the music took place on the main stage.Â Kicking things off was Noise (Org).
Noise (Org) is a four piece band that is relatively new to the scene. Integrating a plethora of styles from electronic dub step to hip hop and trance fusion, the guys took to the stage ready to showcase their skills and set the weekend gathering off right.Â For nearly an hour, the outfit put on an in-your-face trance heavy set that included a sit in from one of the hosts of the party, Perpetual Groove’s Brock Butler, who would take the stage next under the moniker Brock Butler and Friends.
Brock and Friends is not new to the Friday night lineup for Amberland.Â Though it differs slightly from year to year, one thing that set this offering apart from all others was that Â the crowd was not treated to even so much as a Perpetual Groove tease. Nonetheless, the set which included Butler and members of Atlanta based act, Under the Porch, was an enjoyable display that was shrouded in covers and sing-along’s alike.Â As the set wrapped, The Mantras took (and closed out) the stage; showcasing their ability to command a stage and infuse the crowd with their mix of experimental jam, funk and old fashion rock and roll.
Saturday brought blue skies and soaring hot temperatures. But the beating from the sun didn’t seem to faze many participants.Â The day’s schedule started with YOGA and after a brief mind, body and soul release, the time had come for the first Perpetual Groove set of the weekend.
Just as scheduled, the set began to the delight of the 500 or so PGroovers Â The temperature was in the 90s but only seemed to serve as a catalyst for the dancers.Â The opener, the instrumental number “La Casa Bien,” (Translation: The Good House) Â was metaphorically fitting.Â As the day progressed, the band wound in and out of old tunes such as “Echo,” a monster “Decepticon>Breeze>Structure>Breeze”Â and some heavy hitting covers including Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt” and The Who’s “Eminence Front.”Â Â After about an hour and a half of Perpetual Groove delight, longtime friends and musical peers from Under the Porch took the stage; treating the heat-braving crowd to another hour and half of music.
UTP wove in and out of a fusion of musical styles from jazz infused melodies to funk to a bit of rock and roll.Â Michael Blair (guitar/vocals) and Gary Paulo (sax/guitar/vocals) took turns with their contradicting yet unique vocal styles and phrasing accompanied by the tight backing from the rest of the band.
After a pause in music that brought about the first Amberland matrimonial service with Brock Butler serving as officiant, fans made their way back to their camp sites as the heat of the day gave way to cooling temperatures under a setting sun as they began preparation for the nighttime festivities.Â Perpetual Groove’s second set was on the docket for 7 pm and once again, they were right on time.
This time around, the set list was more pulsating, bright and dance friendly and was kick started by the R.L Burnside cover, “It’s Bad Ya Know.” The evening set also saw the introduction of the first of four new PGroove tunes “Holy Ship” accompanied by fan favorites “Occam’s Blazer,” “Robot Waltz,” and another mammoth sandwich of “Three Weeks>Playground>Live and Let Die>Three Weeks” that left everyone in attendance salivating for more and tossing ideas of what the band had in store next.
As darkness fell, pajama clad perps (Perpetual Groove fans) scattered across the forefront of the stage for the first of two theme nights, Pajama Night.
Again, true to form, the boys took to the stage right on time and prepared for liftoff into what would be a mind blowing and face melting set of cosmic proportions.
The set began with a cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” followed by the always heavy hitting dance party number, “TTFPJ.”Â The song about Buffy’s boyfriend was followed by an introduction to another new tune in the instrumental number “Lemur” (that was the most well-received piece of new material of the weekend).Â Â After a PGroove staple cover, the Talking Head’s “NaÃ¯ve Melody” came what bassist Adam Perry referred to as his favorite musical moment of the day with the segue rich and deeply complex “Mr. Transistor>MOTA>Mr. Transistor.”
With no official late night set on Saturday’s bill, Former Champions attempted to quench the patrons longing for more, but for most, the no-late-night was a cue to head to camp and eventually call it a night.
Many Amberland veterans look forward to Sunday morning as much as any other set of the weekend.Â Why?Â It’s Brockfest.Â Brockfest is a time when Brock Butler takes over the stage for an intimate two hour acoustic session for the early risers. Over the years, Brockfest has become synonymous with bourbon drinking. The sleepy eyed but devoted crowd wandered aimlessly down the path past the giant Cherokee Farms mud hole (or pond, if you will) mostly with either chairs or blankets in hand as an unspoken brotherly war ensued, the goal: shade.
After Brockfest, the crowd’s spirits, now a little more jolted unlike anything a light roasted coffee could do, the festivities were well on their way to the weekend’s climax of three more Perpetual Groove sets.
Mid afternoon yielded another hour and a half set, typically subdued for those who have yet to fully recover from the previous night. The afternoon highlight did include an unspoken forecasting of things to come with the band dropping an apropos cover “Get Down Tonight” followed by a now rare glimpse at “At this Everything I>All this Everything II.”
As the evening began to break, so did the fifth set of the weekend. The set showcased the next in the line of new tunes with “The Devil May Care,” an emotional tune that reminded us of Butler’s lyrical prowess, followed by what was the largest jam of the weekend, “Crockett and >Golden Path>Tubbs.”Â The show journeyed on as the band did dedicated “Astro Monkey” to a gentleman wearing a full astronaut suit over a monkey suit before ending with another hard hitter, “Speed>March of Gibbles Army>Queen.”
Once again the sun had made its way to the other side of the world leaving the faithful howling for more.
Zoogma took the stage, minus their drummer, whom was battling an illness, but showed no sign of missing a beat, partially because (Perpetual Groove drummer) Albert Suttle and Jeremy Adams lent their skills to the mix.
Aside from the hosts, Zoogma had the longest set that truly showed what these relative newcomers are made of and why they have become a name to know on the music scene.
Hailing from Oxford, MS, Zoogma is an eclectic blend that blends elements of electronica without losing the element that is often lost in the electronic scene of today, a live ensemble with organic instruments present.Â Although minus a member, the band got things moving abruptly with its dance laced grooves that left everybody on the property ready for the climax of which they had all anxiously awaited, the final PGroove set of the weekend.
Nearly one hour ahead of the tentative schedule, Perpetual Groove took the stage on the “come as your favorite Pgroove song” themed night.Â Costumes ranged from the aforementioned Astro Monkey and the night’s winner… a glow stick infused Space Paranoid.
The band took to the stage just as the house music was brought to a high point in sync with the retina burning light rig, signaling a set that will go down in the PGroove annals of infamy.
During the two hour musical journey, the band wove in and out of songs and improvisational jams that were not fit for the faint of heart.Â It all began Â with “Two Shores>Mayday>Two Shores” that teased “Paradise City,” (Guns N’ Roses) . “Cairo,” a tune that has been labeled by members of the band as the most definitive Perpetual Groove sound today, came next.Â Though the band has been playing this tune for quite some time now, since the New Years Eve version, the boys have never looked back and it has secured its spot as being one of the hardest hitters in rotation.
After paying homage to the Beatles with an amped take on “Helter Skelter,” the band truly demonstrated its greatness and why they remain on the scene after over a decade. The well orchestrated sandwich that was about to be served was nothing short of epic.
Hruby’s synth-heavy intro into his tune “At The Screen” segued in an out of the powerful “Cabula Monstrosity” before finding its way back to the reprise of “At the Screen” that had people screaming, jumping, dancing and hugging one another is musical bliss.Â After this beast, the band debuted the last of its new tunes, “The Man with All the Answers,” before finishing the night in stellar fashion with the ever popular and crowd favorite, “Teakwood Betz.”
Bassist Adam Perry mentioned in an early conversation that the encore was open but it too seemed to fall into place just as well orchestrated as the rest of the weekend.
Perhaps in tribute to the costume contest winner, “Space Paranoids” would begin the send off but not before it meandered its way into the emotionally charged “It Starts Where it Ends” before finding its way back home.
As with any good party it too must come to an end and the band went out in style with the infamous “Macumba,” wherein which Brock once again showcased his rap skills, but this year, John Hruby lent a hand with a little Eazy-E thrown in for good measure.
Amberland continues to grow by leaps and bounds and this year was no exception.Â The overall atmosphere is unlike any other place. As opposed to a traditional festival, Amberland once again was more like a family vacation without your weird cousins around to bring you down.
Make no mistake, Perpetual Groove continues to be a force with which to be reckoned and, if nothing else, Amberland cast away any notion of anything otherwise.